Tuesday, July 22, 2008

They sure serve ‘em big in Palau

I was attending a luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club I covered for our newspaper at Penthouse hotel in downtown a couple of weeks ago started late and my stomach was already growling, protesting why it was denied food since the night before. There just wasn’t time to grab something to eat. Deadline was beating down our necks.

When Editor Maam Lei told me to order food from the restaurant, I did not hesitate but sat immediately at one of the tables. Being very hungry, I ordered the first familiar dish I saw on the laminated menu- - fried chicken combo meal. One serving costs $7.50++. (It’s always the ++ that scares me when ordering food from classy restaurants back at the PI).

I usually only buy bento, (a meal packed in plastic complete with rice and two viands priced from $1.50 to $2.50 and it is always enough to fill me). Anyway I was not paying so why the fuss.

When the Filipina waitress served the food, I gulped for there, set before me was a huge (and I mean HUGE) platter with rice enough to feed me for a couple of days, a mountain of raw cucumber, cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes, and five gigantic slices of crisply fried chicken. Half of one slice was enough for me I swear. The orange juice costing $2.50 came in a huge glass which looked like only a few inches shorter than a regular pitcher.

I looked around apprehensively, expecting to see sneers from other customers because with my 5-ft-98-lb frame, it would seem like I had been denied food for months but nobody was looking in my direction. I picked up my spoon and fork and began eating daintily. If the truth was to be told, I wished to eat with my hands. Food always tastes much better and satisfying that way. I just scraped the chicken skins and popped them to my mouth, (forget the calories, crispy fried chicken skin is just too tempting), one-fourth of the rice and half of the juice, ignoring the salad. I’ll never be a vegetarian. (Ever hear that eating too much veges may lure snakes to live in your stomach?)…

Housemate Celina and I ordered fried rice for dinner from Kumangai restaurant just last week.
“Isang order lang?” the PI waitress asked us. We both said we were very hungry and ordered one serving each. Mine is java rice and hers is seafood. You guessed right, one serving was good for three persons. We were still eating fried rice until noon of the next day.

One time I passed by a couple of locals grilling barbeque under the Japan-Palau friendship bridge where I went to take photos of the sunset. I cast an absent-minded glance at the spit but retraced my steps when I was five meters away to check if my eyes were playing tricks. The two men were grilling fish so big and chicken thighs resembling turkey’s thighs I wondered how it could be consumed. One half of a chicken thigh would make me burst. They saw me eyeing the barbeque and urged me to eat.
“You eat, why, you’re soooo small!” One of them said, but I politely refused their offer, swallowing the urge to insist that I was not that small but it’s them who were just so big.

It’s normal to see fish weighing 100 lbs or more, bread solid enough that one slice is equivalent to a full meal, garlic and onion as big as a giant’s fist, kindergarten pupils bigger than the normal elementary students in the PI, t-shirts (small size) that reached down to my knees when I tried it on, oh, name it, it’s big! Anyway, one month here in Palau has taught me a lesson. They sure serve them big. I mean food. And drinks, too.

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